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Garcia & Johnson Recommend Delaying Funding For Replenishment Police Academy Class Until FY13 Budget Actions (Sept. 2012 For Period Ending Sept. 2013), Request City Mgm't Plan In March 2012 Re Funding Academy Classes In Future Years (Non-Binding); Schipske Seeks Academy Funding Now; Police Officers Ass'n President Warns Of Rising Crime Amid Further Delay
Editor's note: On LBReport.com Big News Sunday (Feb. 5), Councilman Garcia spoke by telephone with us regarding the Committee meeting described below and the motion he made. To hear that conversation, click here
(Feb. 3, 2012, updated Feb. 6) -- LBReport.com provides detailed coverage -- including extended transcript excerpts and quick-launch on-demand audio -- of a significant Jan. 31 meeting of the City Council's Public Safety Committee (Councilmembers Garcia, Schipske, Johnson).
The Committee engaged in an extended discussion (audio, video and transcripts below) of whether and when to fund a replenishment Police Academy class.
Committee chair Councilman Robert Garcia made a motion, seconded with an amendment (below) by Councilman James Johnson, "to request the full Council to direct the City Manager to prepare a multi year police academy and recruitment plan and present it to the Council during the beginning of the March budget discussion...presented at the start of the budget process so that we're able to adequately look at those numbers"
Councilman James Johnson conditioned his second to Garcia's motion on what he called a "friendly amendment":
Councilman Johnson: So I just make a friendly amendment...I do think it should be consistent with our budgeted levels and we can talk about this summer about what that level should be, some of us may want to change that, but would you accept a friendly amendment that would look at a multi year plan consistent with our budgeted levels?"
Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske dissented, offered a substitute motion to direct city management to use available funds to fund a replenishment Academy class immediately...and didn't receive a second.
The Committee majority's recommendation now goes to the full City Council on Feb 14.
The Jan. 31 Committee meeting was the first time that Committee chair Garcia called a meeting of the Committee he chairs to discuss LBPD staffing levels (and a replenishment police academy class) since Nov. 30, 2010...when it received a report from Police Chief Jim McDonnell on police staffing. The Committee took no action and made no report to the full Council on the issue...and no replenishment police academy class (to replace retiring/exiting officers) was budgeted by the Council (Sept. 2011 vote) for FY12 (and hasn't been budgeted for the past three fiscal years).
The last Public Safety Committee meeting (Nov. 2010) took place after the Council voted in Sept. 2010 and Sept. 2009 to cut 140 budgeted sworn officers to help balance City Hall's budget. During 2011, the Committee met on other matters but held no meetings on police/fire cuts proposed for FY12 by Mayor Foster and city management (Aug. 2011) and enacted by a Council majority (Sept. 2011, 6-3 vote, Schipske, Gabelich, Neal dissenting).
At the Jan. 31, 2012 Committee meeting, LBPD Administration Bureau Chief Braden Phillips opened with a presentation on LBPD staffing levels and PD management's FY13 priorities, which include a replenishment police academy class.
Committee chair Garcia indicated he would make a motion that asks city management to present a report in March on City Hall's fiscal situation and possible funding for a replenishment police academy in FY13 as well as future years. The action would effectively delay Council voted action on whether to fund a replenishment Police Academy class until budget adoption in Sept. 2012 and involves no legally binding commitments thereafter. City management's budgets have also routinely included police academy funding when proposed (July-August), which the Council has for the past three years removed and reallocated in September to fund current officers.
LBPD Lt. Steve James testified in his capacity as President of the LB Police Officers Ass'n., stating in pertinent part:
LBPOA Pres./Lt. Steve James: The [replenishment Police] Academy is needed just to maintain the [staffing] level we're at now. If you guys decided today or the Council as a full body decided this evening to order a police academy, we're looking 26 to 28 months down the road before we have a police officer who can work in a beat by themselves handling calls for service. 26 to 28 months.
Additional podium speakers followed. LBReport.com publisher Bill Pearl sought clarification on numbers cited in management's Power Point on LBPD staffing levels, which Pearl said included roughly 60 officers not available for routine citywide deployment (contracted to handle Port/Airport/LBCC/LB Transit duties and paid by those entities, not the Council-budgeted General Fund); he also sought details on some cited crime statistics. PD management responded in detail regarding contracted staffing numbers and Committee chair Garcia asked PD PIO staff to provide info on the latter after the Committee meeting.
Long time community advocate John Deats noted that he'd been a multiple victim of residential burglaries. "There is nothing more devastating to your mentality than coming home and finding your home has been burglarized. To see that category of crime going up in double-digits is most concerting to me and I hope you pay close attention to the need for a replacement academy." Mr. Deats indicated he agrees with everything Lt. James said but said based on speaking with former LB Police Chiefs he believes the lead time for a good productive police officer is three to five years. "You have no time to waste in my mind in conducting a recruit academy, and urged the Council to abandon proportional budget cuts "or I don't know how you're going to survive it."
Committee chair Garcia said he'd spoken with Police Chief Jim McDonnell -- who wasn't present at the Committee meeting where he could be asked about his views directly -- and Councilman Garcia continued:
Councilman Garcia: I think there's no question that while the City is under major fiscal challenges and we also have to I think show I think restraint in areas of the unknowns of where the economy is. I think there is no question that there's a need to look at our police numbers, there's a need to increase the amount of officers that we have on the street...I've had a couple of conversations with the Chief this last week or so about our Academy, about where our numbers are and I think he's made it pretty clear that we certainly would like to see an Academy happen and certainly see more officers on the street. The reality is that we have to look at that in context of where our budget is and what we can afford. But for us to start planning immediately on an Academy and know that the plan is moving forward, not just I think for this year but we need to create a multi-year look at the Police Academy and police recruitment and not just what's going to happen for the rest of 2012 or 2013 but what's going to happen in 2014, what's going to happen in 2015 and how are all of those years and all of the Academies happen in the future affect our sworn staffing and our budget at the same time.
Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske responded:
Councilwoman Schipske: I do think though this is kind of deja vu all over again...How many public safety meetings or Council meetings do we have to have before the majority of this Council finally does something.
Councilman James Johnson stated:
Councilman Johnson: ...These are difficult times. We have to do with less...I think anytime we talk about crime, particularly property crime, I think we need to recognize that while the city has a responsibility to provide officers, to provide public safety, residents also have a responsibility...Lock your car please; keep the garage locked; don't have the valuables in the cars...
Councilman Garcia then stated his motion as follows: "To request the full Council to direct the City Manager to prepare a multi-year Police Academy and recruitment plan and present it to the Council during the beginning of the March budget discussion." Councilman Johnson seconded the motion and offered a friendly amendment (to which Garcia agreed) that the plan be "consistent with our budgeted levels, and we can talk about this summer about what that level should be, some of us may want to change that, but would you accept a friendly amendment that would look at that multi-year plan consistent with our budgeted levels?" and Johnson added "Every year in the summer we decide our budget, and we're not prejudging what that's going to be, but whatever we decide in the budget, I presume that you want your multi-year plan to fit within the budget we adopt..."
"Of course, absolutely," Councilman Garcia replied.
Councilwoman Schipske responded:
Councilwoman Schipske: Would that be the same plan we brought forth last year and the year before and year before? We've had staff work on this every single year, a multi-year recruitment and academy plan.
Councilman Garcia replied:
Councilman Garcia: ...I think the intention is that the Manager isn't going to present us with a report but a funding plan, and I think that would be the intention.
In testimony that followed in the Committee meeting, Lt. James stated:
Councilman Garcia reiterated his motion as follows: "to direct the full Council to ask management to prepare a multi year police academy and recruitment plan and to present it to the Council at the same time they receive the March budget update [same time frame]...It's a report on how we would be funding our Police Academy here on out over the course of a multi-year [period]."
LBPOA President Steve James responded at the Council podium as follows:
...When you go into the budget process you're going to be told you need to make cuts. The City Manager will ask you what you want to cut. And you have to establish priorities.
Also testifying was Jessica Quinton, who cited the importance to her of sufficient police. She added that she expects Sacramento-directed budget "realignment" to result in some of the largest number of current state prisoners returning to Long Beach.
Councilman Garcia followed public testimony by inviting colloquy with LB Financial Management Dir. John Gross, who confirmed that in March he plans to provide updated oil revenue, pension reform savings and "will try to give an overall status of where we think FY12 is, 13 is and where we're heading into the future, both our revenues and our expenditure patterns and I would anticipate that we would be arable to give an update on where we see the deficits, because there will be deficits for the next few years, so I think that will provide a basis for decisions Council may want to make."
In colloquy with Councilmembers Schipske, Administration Bureau Chief Phillips said the cost of a replenishment police academy included $1.5 million salaries for the recruits with total Academy cost in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. He added that once given the go-ahead to proceed, the City would have to identify a cadre of instructors (who'd been eliminated in prior years) who'll be certified by the state to teach the Academy classes.
Councilwoman Schipske made a substitute motion to recommend that the City Manager work with the Police Dept. on establishing an replenishment Academy class in the current fiscal year (FY12), using surplus funds from oil revenue or other sources to fund 17 recruits to replace officers not replaced to date. Her motion died for lack of a second from Councilmembers Garcia or Johnson.
The Committee majority then approved Councilman Garcia's recommended action 2-1 (Schipske dissenting), sending it to the full City Council for discussion now scheduled for Feb. 14.
In a mass emailing the day after the Committee vote (Feb. 1), Councilman Garcia wrote in pertinent part:
...Yesterday, as Chair of the Public Safety Committee, I brought forward a proposal supported by Councilman James Johnson, to begin a Multi-Year planning process for our Police Academy and Police recruitment. We need to begin long term planning to ensure that we increase our force, but also do so in a fiscally responsible way.
To hear what Public Safety Committee chair Garcia said at the November 30, 2010 Committee meeting regarding police staffing and a replenishment police academy class, click here.
To hear what then-candidate Garcia said in announcing his 2009 special election run to succeed Bonnie Lowenthal in the 1st Council district, click here.
The Council's upcoming Sept. 2012 budget vote (on the FY13 City Hall budget) will include at least one and potentially two or three new Councilmembers. District 8 will have a new representative with the exit of term limited incumbent Councilwoman Rae Gabelich. Incumbents face opponents in two other Council districts. In district 2, Janet Ballantyne is challenging Vice Mayor Lowenthal (who's on ballot) and in district 4, John Watkins and Daryl Supernaw face each other on the ballot with Councilman O'Donnell seeking a third term via write-in.
Long Beach's current budgeted police level is now roughly at or below what the City provided (with a smaller population) when Mayor Beverly O'Neill took office in July 1994.
Long Beach (L.A. County's second largest city) currently provides its taxpayers with a per capita police level roughly equivalent to cutting L.A.P.D.'s police level by over 25%. Los Angeles City Hall provides over 2.0 officers per thousand residents while Signal Hill delivers close to 3.0.
Virtually all of the officers for which LB City Hall sought federal taxpayer-paid police hiring grants (telling Washington that Long Beach acknowledged the need to increase its police levels) have been eliminated by City Hall budget actions in Sept. 2009, 2010, 2011 by Council majorities under Mayor Bob Foster.
In 2006, candidate Bob Foster pledged to increase police on the street by 100 officers during his first term, and was on his way to doing so, reaching 961 budgeted officers for citywide deployment (included 17 police academy recruits; figure (figure doesn't include roughly 60 officers paid for and contracted to the Port/LB Airport/LBCC/LBUSD/LB Transit)
In Long Beach, the economic downturn (which escalated with Wall Street's financial crisis in Sept. 2008) was compounded by LB City Hall's approval of union contracts that gave raises to three major city employee unions (that had endorsed Foster's 2006 election) without including pension reforms. The Council approved the contracts in 2007 (POA contract reopener, no voted Council dissent) and 2008 (Firefighters, 8-1 Gabelich dissenting) and non-public safety employees (7-2, Gabelich and DeLong dissenting).
As the recession deepened, Mayor Foster said the contracts weren't sustainable and insisted on pension changes (employees paying more of their salary toward their pensions) and enacting a second-tier pension system for new hires. LB's police and firefighter unions agreed to the pension changes in 2011; to date, the union representing
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